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Can Cats Take Human Antibiotics? Everything You Need to Know!

No one likes to see their beloved cat in pain suffering from a pesky infection. How convenient would it be to be able to offer your sick cat your leftover antibiotics after your last illness? If you have some leftover amoxicillin in your cupboard, should you give it to your cat if you suspect they have an infection? The answer is no.

Some antibiotic medications for cats often have the same basic composition as those made for humans; however, the rest of the compounds could be different.

There are a handful of human antibiotics that can be safely administered to cats, but they must be given under the advice of your vet.

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What Human Antibiotics Are Safe for Cats?

While some antibiotics prescribed to your cat by the vet might seem to be the same ones your doctor prescribed you in the past, you should be aware that antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals used in veterinary medicine are prepared with specific dosages and components to make them safe for cats. Some human antibiotics are not safe for your pets, likewise, there are veterinary-specific antibiotics that are not used in human medicine.

woman hand giving to the cat special pills

Image by: Veera, Shutterstock

How Do I Give Human Antibiotics to My Cat?

The only time you should give an antibiotic to your cat is following a veterinarian’s prescription. The veterinarian will let you know the exact treatment including dosage, frequency of administration, treatment duration, and other indications, like whether the medication should be given after meals or with water.

There are several key rules one must follow when providing medication to their animals. Disobeying these rules can have dire consequences so it’s best to acquaint yourself with them to ensure your kitty recovers from their illness fast and stays healthy. Here are some basic ground rules to know.

Follow the Timetable

One of the most essential rules for antibiotics for pets or humans is to follow the timetable. You need to give the medication at the designated time and duration your doctor has prescribed it. Do not stop giving the medication if the symptoms of the illness it’s treating have subsided. Stopping before its prescribed end date can cause symptoms to come back and can even increase the chances of developing antibiotic resistance.

Never Self-Prescribe

Say you had a UTI last month, and your doctor prescribed you amoxicillin to treat it. Your symptoms went away so you stopped taking your antibiotic even though you had a few pills left. If your cat starts showing symptoms of a similar infection, it must be okay to offer them the same amoxicillin tablets your doctor prescribed you, right? Wrong. Amoxicillin doses for cats will not be the same as the ones for humans, and it could prove to be fatal. Cats will metabolize medications differently than we do so you must consult your veterinarian for proper dosage.

Also, if you’re not a veterinarian, you should not be diagnosing your pet yourself. While they may be exhibiting symptoms that you believe are related to a bladder infection, it could be something entirely different.

You should also know that by terminating an antibiotic treatment schedule before its prescribed time, you might not eradicate all the bacteria. The survival bacteria can quickly reproduce and recolonize, causing the infection to return. Chances are the bacteria will now be resistant to the antibiotic used in the original prescription, so you will have to start all over again, maybe taking a different medication and reducing the treatment options. Every antibiotic treatment should be completed according to the days prescribed by the vet.

If you see an adverse reaction to a medication such as vomiting, diarrhea or seizures, call the vet immediately. If you see no improvement after 48–72 hours of the treatment, you should let the vet know about this, but do not take it upon yourself to stop the treatment. Self-prescription puts you and your pets at risk of creating superinfections.

a red long-haired tabby cat is being checked up by a vet
Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

How Do I Give My Cat Its Liquid Antibiotic?

If you’ve ever had to give medications to a cat before, you know how difficult it can be. You’re going to need to get a little bit creative regardless of what type of medication you’re administering.

If your antibiotic is in liquid form, mix it in with some of your cats’ wet food. They must get the entirety of their dosage so they will need to eat all their food to ensure they’re getting all the medication they need. If you live in a multi-pet household, you should separate the sick cat during meal times so you can monitor how much they’re eating and ensure none of the other pets are getting into the medication.

If your cat has dietary restrictions or won’t eat their wet food, you will need to administer it directly into their mouth. The easiest way to do this is to wrap your kitty in a blanket or towel and only allow the head to be exposed. This will protect you from scratches and make handling your cat a lot easier.

Some cats are more apt to take their medication if it’s a bit warmer. Try holding the syringe tightly in your hand to warm it. Do not put any medication in the microwave.

Place the syringe tip in the mouth just behind one of their fang teeth. Angle the syringe slightly so once you press the plunger, the medication will dispense onto the tongue. Do not aim for the back of the throat as this can cause your pet to aspirate the liquid into its lungs. Press the plunger slowly.

It is normal for your cat to spit out some of the medication. Do not try to re-administer what was spit out unless you know without a doubt that your cat spat out its entire dose. Your vet knows that cats can be finicky and likely accounted for a small amount of loss when calculating the dose to prescribe.

Offer a treat afterward to make the experience more positive.

infusion of liquid medicine by a veterinarian
Image Credit: Zhuravlev Andrey, Shutterstock

What Should I Do If My Cat Has Accidentally Eaten Antibiotics Not Listed Above?

If your pet has gotten into your antibiotics, you need to see a vet as soon as possible. Antibiotics, even those prescribed specifically for your cat, can be toxic if ingested in large amounts.

The following signs may manifest in your cat if they’ve eaten too much of any type of medication:
  • Drooling
  • Anorexia
  • GI upset (vomiting, diarrhea)
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Rapid heartbeat

If you are unable to talk to your vet immediately, your local emergency vet or Pet Poison Hotline should be your next phone call. The hotline is accessible 24/7 and can provide the next steps to follow.

Under no circumstances should you ever try to induce vomiting if you think your cat has gotten into your medication. The ASPCA Animal Control Center warns that inducing vomiting in your cats at home can be very dangerous.

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Final Thoughts

Antibiotics are an effective treatment method for many infections both you and your cat may encounter. That said, you need to consult with your veterinarian before administering any antibiotic to your cat. They will provide you with the medication as well as dosing guidelines and instructions. Never give your cat your human medication, even if it’s the same brand name. The dosages will be different, and overdosing with antibiotics can have dire consequences.

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Featured Image Credit: savitskaya iryna, Shutterstock